Langer v. Board Of Education Of The City Of Chicago
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order: Signed by the Honorable Robert M. Dow, Jr on 1/18/2017. Mailed notice (mmy, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE
CITY OF CHICAGO,
Case No. 11-cv-5226
Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.
Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Odette Langer (“Plaintiff”) brings suit against the Board of Education of the City
of Chicago (“Defendant”) for race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, breach of contract,
and violation of federal due process.1 This case is currently before the Court on Plaintiff’s
objections  to Magistrate Judge Finnegan’s July 13, 2016 discovery order. See . For
the reasons that follow, Plaintiff’s objections  are overruled. As a housekeeping matter, the
Court also directs the Clerk to terminate as moot Plaintiff’s motion for extension of time to
respond to Magistrate Judge Finnegan’s July 13, 2016 discovery order . Finally, the Court
enters the following schedule for dispositive motions:
Dispositive motions, along with
memoranda in support and LR 56.1 and 56.2 Statement(s), due by 2/28/2017; response(s) due by
4/4/2017; replies due by 4/25/2017. The Court will rule by mail.
The background of this case is set forth in detail in the Court’s order granting in part and
denying in part Defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s amended complaint, knowledge of
which is assumed here. See  at 2-6. Briefly stated, Plaintiff alleges that, for discriminatory
Plaintiff’s other claims, for age, race, and religious discrimination, “lack of investigation,” and
harassment, were dismissed on October 16, 2013. See  at 1.
reasons, her supervisor, Joseph Kallas (“Kallas”), coerced her into retiring from her position as
principal of John Barry Elementary School (“Barry School”) in 2010 under threats of
termination. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant’s CEO, Ron Huberman (“Huberman”),
never responded to her request to remove her notice of retirement from Defendant’s files or
alternatively to rescind the notice of retirement under Board of Education Rule 4-16(b).
Magistrate Judge Finnegan began supervising discovery in this case in January 2014.
She set April 1, 2014 as the deadline for the parties to serve written discovery. Plaintiff failed to
serve written discovery by that date or to respond to Defendant’s discovery. Defendant therefore
filed a motion to compel. Magistrate Judge Finnegan granted Plaintiff an extension of time until
May 20, 2014 to serve written discovery. Plaintiff missed this deadline and belatedly served her
first requests for production (“RFP”) of documents on May 27, 2014. The nineteen numbered
requests were exceedingly broad, contained numerous unnumbered subparts (which, when
included, increase the total number of requests to well over 100), and in many places were
difficult to decipher.2
These requests are summarized in greater detail in Magistrate Judge Finnegan’s July 13, 2016 order,
knowledge of which is assumed here. See  at 5-6. As an example, RFP 1,  at 3-4, requests:
Chicago Board of Education in open and closed sessions, stating the date and time of
each session, all documents pertaining to the following:
a) For each year separately and the school’s name in alphabetical order Termination of
each named school principal’s employment, the name and type of the school, the type of
termination, the reasons that the termination was or was not made, the documents that the
Board saw and considered in that the decision, documents sent to the Board pertaining to
any school principal and the dates that they were sent and received whether or not they
were considered and if they were considered in what way were they considered; the
name, home address, and home telephone number of each Board member, and by whom
that member is employed currently and during the past 10 years prior to be involved in a
decision pertaining to a principal;
b) Board resolutions and warning resolutions pertaining to each principal receiving them
or being considered to receive them; recommendations to the Board by the Chief
Executive Officer (“CEO”) and details of each recommendation and all facts pertaining
to that occurring including who brought that principal’s name to the CEO’s attention and
the date that occurred, and the complete factual basis for that having occurred;
On May 28, 2014, Magistrate Judge Finnegan held a hearing on discovery. Defendant
reported that Plaintiff had not responded to discovery or served her own requests by the April 1,
2014 deadline. Over Defendant’s objection, Magistrate Judge Finnegan allowed Plaintiff to
serve her late discovery, required Defendant to serve a response, and ordered the parties to have
a Rule 37 conference if necessary. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37. Defendant’s written responses to the
RFPs contained numerous objections.
On June 25, 2014 (and unbeknownst to Magistrate Judge Finnegan until much later),
Plaintiff served a second set of RFPs. This new set was also quite expansive and focused on
documents pertaining to Barry School’s “value added calculations,” a method of measuring
academic growth from year to year. Defendant objected to the second set of RFPs on the basis
that they were served more than a month after the extended May 20, 2014 deadline for written
In an attempt to resolve the parties’ disputes concerning written discovery and to advance
the completion of all discovery, Magistrate Judge Finnegan subsequently held approximately
twenty hearings with the parties, at which they provided updates on their ongoing efforts to
narrow and complete Plaintiff’s RFPs and Magistrate Judge Finnegan ruled on discrete disputes
over the RPFs. At the close of each hearing, the Court asked whether either party had any
c) Hearings held of a principal before a hearing officer and all documents associated with
that hearing and the basis of those hearings;
d) Policies, rules, guide lines, operating procedures, performance evaluations, and
specific procedures to be followed by its department heads and departments and to be
followed in regard to the termination of any employee’s employment for any reason,
authority, standards, requirements, performance of schools individually and in groups,
methods that the Board used to be sure that departments or personnel were acting in
accordance with the procedures with what the Board desires;
e) Chart showing interaction of each school system department, duties, and procedures to
be used by each department;
f) School closings because of too few students, because of performance, because of
making them charter schools to save money or for other reasons.
additional issues to bring to the Court’s attention. Magistrate Judge Finnegan’s July 13, 2016
order provides a detailed summary of these hearings and her rulings, knowledge of which is
assumed here.  at 9-34.
By June 2015, it appeared that the parties were on the cusp of completing written
discovery. However, at the June 17, 2015 status hearing, Plaintiff stated that she had requested
but not yet received certain written discovery that Defendant had agreed to produce. Plaintiff
stated that she had email communications with defense counsel reflecting these agreements.
Magistrate Judge Finnegan ordered Plaintiff to provide the supporting email communications to
her, if the parties could not resolve the dispute themselves. The parties did not resolve their
dispute, and Plaintiff did not file the supporting email communications with the Court. Instead,
over the next ten months Plaintiff filed three new motions, which made clear that she sought to
litigate almost all of her original document requests, including ones on which Magistrate Judge
Finnegan had already expressly ruled. See  (filed October 19, 2015),  (filed April 18,
2016), and  (filed April 18, 2016).
While she was overseeing written discovery, Magistrate Judge Finnegan was also
overseeing deposition discovery. As is relevant to Plaintiff’s objections, at the November 24,
2014 status hearing, Magistrate Judge Finnegan asked the parties what depositions they planned
to take. Defendant stated that it intended to depose only Plaintiff, and Plaintiff stated that she did
not yet know of any depositions that she would take. Magistrate Judge Finnegan ordered the
parties to file a written status report by January 7, 2015 discussing their planned depositions and
the dates they had agreed upon for them. Plaintiff filed a late status report on January 15, 2015,
but did not identify any witnesses who she intended to depose. At the January 23, 2015 status
hearing, Plaintiff stated that, at the moment, she did not intend to depose anyone. Magistrate
Judge Finnegan gave Plaintiff until February 25, 2015 to send Defendant a list of witnesses who
she wanted to depose. Plaintiff did not send Defendant a list of witnesses by the February 25,
2015 deadline. Upon Plaintiff’s motion, Magistrate Judge Finnegan granted Plaintiff until March
18, 2015 to identify deponents, but warned Plaintiff that no further extensions would be allowed.
See  at 1. Plaintiff did not identify any deponents by the extended March 18, 2015
At the May 26, 2015 status hearing, defense counsel informed Magistrate Judge Finnegan
that he intended to depose Monica Rosen (“Rosen”), Defendant’s former Talent Management
Officer, on July 1, 2015. Defense counsel also stated that he would not be deposing Kallas,
unless it became necessary based on Rosen’s testimony. Two days before Rosen’s deposition,
defense counsel informed Plaintiff via email that he was cancelling the deposition. On July 22,
2015, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking permission to depose both Rosen and Kallas. Magistrate
Judge Finnegan granted the motion to depose Rosen, over Defendant’s objection, and required
the deposition to be completed on August 25 or 26, 2015. Magistrate Judge Finnegan took under
advisement whether to allow Kallas to be deposed. On September 1, Magistrate Judge Finnegan
ruled that Plaintiff could depose Kallas so long as the deposition was completed by October 31,
Plaintiff eventually took Rosen’s deposition on November 12, 2015, after cancelling it
once due to illness. She also sought an extension of time to take Kallas’ deposition. On October
30, 2015, Magistrate Judge Finnegan granted Plaintiff an extension, but ordered that Kallas’
deposition must be completed before the December holidays. Plaintiff subsequently sought to
delay Kallas’ deposition until after January 1, 2016. Defendant objected. Magistrate Judge
Finnegan held a telephonic status conference on December 8, 2015. Plaintiff failed to dial in.
Defense counsel informed Magistrate Judge Finnegan that Kallas was available to be deposed on
December 30, 2015, and Magistrate Judge Finnegan ordered that the deposition go forward on
that date. On December 28, 2015, Plaintiff cancelled the deposition, allegedly because she had a
bad cold and was taking prescription medication. On January 7, 2016, she filed a motion asking
to reschedule Kallas’ deposition. After determining via in camera review that Plaintiff had not
actually been taking prescription medication, Magistrate Judge Finnegan granted Plaintiff one
final extension of time in which to depose Kallas. Plaintiff eventually deposed Kallas on January
In April and May 2016, Plaintiff filed motions seeking to depose Defendant’s former
CEO, Huberman, and unspecified current and former employees of Defendant. See  (filed
April 18, 2016),  (filed May 10, 2016).
On July 13, 2016, Magistrate Judge Finnegan issued an order denying Plaintiff’s most
recent five discovery motions, , , , , and . As to Plaintiff’s three
motions to compel, , , and , Magistrate Judge Finnegan concluded that “the
underlying premise for Plaintiff’s motions to compel—that Defendant agreed to produce all the
documents sought in her numerous requests—is false, and she offers no other reasons to grant
her motions and require the exceedingly broad discovery that she seeks.”
 at 48.
Magistrate Judge Finnegan explained that Plaintiff refused repeated opportunities to narrow her
requests and sought to re-litigate the Court’s discovery rulings on multiple occasions. Based on
the totality of the circumstances, Magistrate Judge Finnegan denied Plaintiff’s motion to compel
Defendant to gather and produce voluminous additional documents.
As to Plaintiff’s two motions requesting additional depositions,  and ,
Magistrate Judge Finnegan concluded that Plaintiff had delayed too long in seeking the
depositions and failed to argue convincingly that she learned new information during the Rosen
or Kallas depositions that created a need for additional depositions. Magistrate Judge Finnegan
explained that Plaintiff provided no reason for failing to identify Huberman as a deponent long
ago, and no details on what information she expected to learn from the additional ten or fifteen
unnamed deponents referred to in her motions. “Absent any clear statement regarding what
Plaintiff hopes to glean from the unspecified witnesses, or any valid explanation for her delay in
seeking to depose new witnesses,” Magistrate Judge Finnegan denied Plaintiff’s request to take
additional depositions.  at 49.
Magistrate judges have “extremely broad discretion in controlling discovery” when
matters are referred to them for discovery supervision. Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Indus. Co.,
Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 943 (7th Cir. 1997). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a) permits parties to
object to a magistrate judge’s resolution of non-dispositive motions—including discovery
motions, see 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A)—within fourteen days after being served with the order.
This Court “must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any part of the order that is
clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a). An order is “clearly erroneous”
only when “the district court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
made.” Weeks, 126 F.3d at 943. If “there are two permissible views, the reviewing court should
not overturn the decision solely because it would have chosen the other view.” Ball v. Kotter,
2009 WL 3824709, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 12, 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). This “standard of review is consistent with the view that the judge who issued the
discovery order at issue is in the best position to determine whether the parties have complied
with it.” Id. (citing Melendez v. Illinois Bell Tel. Co., 79 F.3d 661, 670-71 (7th Cir. 1996)).
Plaintiff raises two issues in her objections to Magistrate Judge Finnegan’s July 13, 2016
order. First, as to her motions to compel, , , and , Plaintiff essentially argues that
Magistrate Judge Finnegan incorrectly believed that written discovery was nearly complete by
June 2015, when in fact Plaintiff still expected Defendant to produce additional documents in
response to her first set of RFPs, and Defendant had agreed to do so.
The Court concludes that Magistrate Judge Finnegan did not commit clear error by
denying Plaintiff’s motions to compel the production of additional documents in response to her
RFPs. See , , and . Based on its review of the record, the Court concludes that
there is no support for Plaintiff’s position that Defendant agreed to produce all of the documents
sought in her numerous RFPs. It was eminently reasonable for Magistrate Judge Finnegan to
conclude, after conducting approximately twenty hearings at which Plaintiff had a chance to
raise any outstanding discovery issues, that Plaintiff is not entitled to the production of any
additional documents. This case is more than five years old and Magistrate Judge Finnegan has
been supervising discovery for the past two and half years. Neither discovery nor the litigation
can go on forever. Further, Plaintiff fails to explain how any of the additional documents that
she seeks are relevant to her case or why she could not have moved to compel them earlier.
As to RFPs on which Magistrate Judge Finnegan already directly ruled, Plaintiff fails to
explain how or why any of these rulings were incorrect.
Moreover, Plaintiff’s apparent
challenge to Magistrate Judge Finnegan’s July 29, 2014 ruling (see  at 4) is untimely by
nearly two years. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a) (requiring objections to be filed within 14 days of the
ruling being challenged).
Plaintiff’s second objection to Magistrate Judge Finnegan’s July 13, 2016 order concerns
her motions to take the depositions of Huberman and ten to twenty other unspecified deponents.
See  and . Plaintiff argues that she is entitled to take additional depositions because,
before Magistrate Judge Finnegan began supervising discovery, this Court stated that Huberman
and Alicia Winckler, from Defendant’s Human Resources/Human Talent Department, “should
be deposed.”  at 5. It is unclear from Plaintiff’s brief or supporting exhibits what statement
by the Court she is referring to. But this is ultimately irrelevant. Regardless of whether the
Court said prior to January 2014 that Huberman could or should be deposed, the fact is that
Plaintiff never sought to depose Huberman (or Winckler) until long after the deadline for
identifying deponents had already passed. Plaintiff offers no reason why she could not have
identified Huberman as a deponent earlier. Indeed, her own argument makes clear that she could
have, by referring to a ruling that this Court allegedly made before Magistrate Judge Finnegan
was ever assigned to supervise discovery. Plaintiff also does not argue that she learned any new
information at Kallas’ or Rosen’s deposition that made it necessary for her to depose anyone
The Court therefore concludes that Magistrate Judge Finnegan did not commit clear error
by denying any of Plaintiff’s discovery motions, , , ,  or  and overrules
Plaintiff’s objections  to the July 13, 2016 discovery order .
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s objections  to Magistrate Judge Finnegan’s
July 13, 2016 discovery order are overruled. As a housekeeping matter, the Court also directs
the Clerk to terminate as moot Plaintiff’s motion for extension of time to respond to Magistrate
Judge Finnegan’s July 13, 2016 discovery order . Finally, the Court enters the following
schedule for dispositive motions: Dispositive motions, along with memoranda in support and LR
56.1 and 56.2 Statement(s), due by 2/28/2017; response(s) due by 6/4/2017; replies due by
4/25/2017. The Court will rule by mail.
Dated: January 18, 2017
Robert M. Dow, Jr.
United States District Judge
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